Police Abuse

It's Time To Bust Police Unions

Over and over again, unions have defended bad policing and bad police. It’s time for them to go.


In 2018, as a gunman murdered 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Sgt. Brian Miller, a sheriff's deputy with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, hid behind his police cruiser, waiting 10 minutes to radio for help. For his failure to act, Miller was fired. The official cause was "neglect of duty." 

Last month, however, Miller was not only reinstated but given full back pay. His 2017 salary was more than $138,000. Miller had challenged his firing, and, as The Miami Herald reports, he had done so with the full backing of his union.

Miller's reinstatement is notable in that it relates to a high-profile case. But the essential story—an officer performs poorly with fatal results and the union comes to his defense—is all too common. 

This is what police unions do: defend the narrow interests of police at the expense of public safety. They exist to demand that taxpayers pay for dangerous, and even deadly, negligence. And although they are not the only pathology that affects American policing, they are a key internal influence on police culture, a locus of resistance to improvements designed to reduce police violence. To stop bad cops and police abuse, we must tackle police unions. 

In case after case, police unions have defended deadly misdeeds committed by law enforcement. In 2014, for example, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo put Eric Garner in a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes. As a result of Pantaleo's chokehold, Garner died. Garner's last words were, "I can't breathe." 

The incident, caught on video, helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement. A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, but five years after Garner's death, he was fired from the force following a police administrative judge's ruling that the chokehold was, indeed, a violation of department policy.

Pantaleo had violated his police department's policy in a way that resulted in the death of a man who was committing the most minor of offenses. Yet when he was finally fired, Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Pantaleo's union, criticized the city for giving in to "anti-police extremists" and warned that such decisions threatened the ability of city police to do their jobs. "We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed 'reckless' just for doing their job," Lynch said

In essence, the police union's position was: Officers of the law should not be punished for using prohibited techniques in ways that result in the deaths of nonviolent offenders, because to do so would unduly inhibit police work. A deadly violation of department policy is just police "doing their job." 

Too often, when police wantonly use deadly force, police unions slow or prevent justice. In March, undercover police raided a Louisville, Kentucky, home. They used a battering ram to break down the door in the middle of the night and then fatally shot one of the occupants, an unarmed emergency room tech named Breonna Taylor. Police were investigating two men believed to be selling pot out of another home, but a judge also allowed police to search Taylor's home, because they believed the men were using it for package delivery. The raid was executed under a no-knock warrant that gives police permission to break into a private residence without identifying themselves. 

Taylor's death resulted in calls for the officers involved to be fired, but Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer warned that the process would be slow. A significant part of why he expected it to take so long, he said, was the city's collective bargaining agreement with the police union. Fischer lamented the process, saying he recognizes "the system is not a best practice for our community." 

The city's police union, meanwhile, has expressed outrage that a city council member described Taylor's boyfriend, who fired on police during the raid, as a hero. This is the union's focus: not demanding justice for a woman killed by police in her home but demanding an apology from a local politician who had the temerity to praise a citizen for defending himself and his girlfriend during a botched police maneuver. The union's goal, it seems, is to protect the police from public criticism, not to protect the public from bad policing. That's what police unions do. 

These are anecdotes, but the evidence bears the point out. The Police Union Contract Project, which collects and compares police union contracts across the country, notes that the agreements are generally designed to make it difficult to hold police accountable, in part by giving them privileges that are not afforded to the broader public. For example, the contracts often prevent officers from being questioned quickly after incidents and often give them access to information not accessible to private citizens. Cities are often required to shoulder the financial burdens of officer misconduct, and disciplinary measures are often restricted. Forthcoming research out of the University of Victoria's economics department finds that the introduction of collective bargaining produces somewhat higher compensation for police officers. It does not correlate with a reduction in total crime—but it does eventually correlate with higher numbers of killings by police, especially of minorities. 

In other words, the research finds about what you'd expect given a public sector workforce with unions set up to protect police officer compensation while limiting discipline and oversight. Police get paid more, yet the public is no safer—and it's even at greater risk of violence by police. 

For a study in the ways that police unions can foster cultures of corruption and self-protection at the expense of public safety, consider the case of Camden, New Jersey. For decades, the city was among the most violent in the country, plagued by one of America's highest murder rates and commensurate levels of property crime. In 2012, with the murder rate approaching record highs, The New York Times reported, police acknowledged "that they have all but ceded these streets to crime." City officials said the police union was to blame. Union contracts made hiring officers prohibitively expensive. The cops on the payroll were being paid too much and they weren't getting the job done.

So the city made a novel decision: Fire the police. All of them. 

That year, Camden began the process of terminating hundreds of officers and hiring a new force initially made up of less expensive, non-union labor, controlled by the county. 

It was a decision meant to address both budget and crime problems. Naturally, the police union opposed the plan, saying it was "definitely a form of union-busting." City officials, the union said, were relying on a reform that was "unproven and untested," putting faith in an agency that did not yet exist. 

By many measures, however, the unproven and untested new police force worked. After disbanding the city police and reorganizing under the county with lower pay, plus adding focus on rebuilding trust with the community (which is among the nation's poorest), murders declined. The city is still dangerous compared to some others, but there's been clear progress in terms of reducing crime and improving community relations. Over the weekend, as residents took to the streets to protest disparate and abusive treatment in black communities, Camden police officers marched with the protesters

Eight years after the shakeup, Camden police are once again represented by a union. But the new labor representation signed off on a use-of-force policy that is, somewhat notably, aimed squarely at de-escalation. Police unions have tended to object to such proposals: In 2016, for example, after a think tank put forward a de-escalation policy suggesting that cops think about how the public might react to the use of violence by police, the vice president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs called it "a ridiculous piece of claptrap." The Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police collaborated on a joint statement opposing the idea. 

Unions aren't the only problem plaguing American police forces; there are plenty of other reforms worth pursuing, from demilitarization to ending qualified immunity. But they have consistently proven to be a force of organized resistance to calmer, safer, less aggressive policing, in part because of how they perceive the nature of the job. 

That has been true in Minneapolis, where the police killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests. Bob Kroll, the president of the city's police union, wrote a letter to fellow officers describing Floyd, who was not resisting as an officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes, as a "violent criminal." Kroll has also referred to protesters as part of a "terrorist movement." He argued that officers were wrongly made to hold back on using less-lethal munitions to suppress riots, and he complained that the officers fired for their involvement in Floyd's death were "terminated without due process." 

Like other police union leaders, Kroll has resisted efforts to rein in police aggression. After the city's mayor banned "warrior training" courses that teach violent confrontation, Kroll decried the ban and struck a deal for city cops to take the course anyway. Janeé Harteau, a former Minneapolis police chief who resigned in 2017 following a police shooting, indicated that Kroll's remarks are typical of the sort of resistance to reform she encountered while chief, saying they represented "the battle that myself and others have been fighting against." 

In an interview with STIM radio in April, The Intercept reports that Kroll noted that he has been involved in three shootings, "and not one of them has bothered me." He lamented the emphasis on training cops to de-escalate tense situations, and cast the job as one for people who have a high threshold for violence: "Certainly getting shot at and shooting people takes a different toll, but if you're in this job and you've seen too much blood and gore and dead people then you've signed up for the wrong job." Beyond the legal and contractual particulars, these are the kinds of attitudes that police unions extol and reinforce. They contribute to a workplace culture that views policing as a job for individuals who remain unbothered by the results of violence.  

Police are public servants granted enormous power over the citizenry. They are tasked with protecting the public and serving their interests. Police unions, in contrast, are tasked with protecting police and serving their interests—even in direct contravention of serving the public. That distinction makes them a barrier to reforms aimed at improving public safety and increasing oversight of how law enforcement behaves. If union-busting is what it takes to reduce the pernicious influence of today's police unions on policing, then it's time to bust some police unions.

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  1. Bust all government employee unions. The pension requirements are going to collapse the economy, making it hard to pay for people's trans surgeries.

    1. I agree with you, but moving them to defined contribution plans, and making that move retroactive, takes care of some of the pension bomb issue. Public employee unions bring more ills than just their bloated pension obligations.

      1. "but moving them to defined contribution plans, "

        +1, this gets rid of the long term liabilities.

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      2. So long as they are also retro-actively paid the money they would have been in the private sector. The pension is the reason for accepting a job with lower pay.

        1. Actually, the pay for many government jobs is now higher than the private-sector equivalents. Would you like that to work both ways, Kemosabe?

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        2. Paid the money they'd have made in the private sector? LOL. With their awe-inspiring resume of, maybe 60 credit hours at the local J.C. towards a C.J. degree?

          Loss prevention guy at Dollar General doesn't pay that well.

        3. "Last month, however, Miller was not only reinstated but given full back pay. His 2017 salary was more than $138,000. "

          You were saying...?

        4. So long as they are also retro-actively paid the money they would have been in the private sector.

          It's like you don't know why Unions form. They 'bargain' with the government to pay them more or they'll shut down the government. In essence, Unions take hostages.

          So is it any surprise they make more than the private sector?

          1. AND, government lacks the one limiting factor on union demands: Going out of business.

            The people who they are negotiating with (legislators) won't even be in office when the billion-dollar pension birds come home to roost.

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    2. Agree and representatives, city council members and other elected officials should get no pensions or compensation whatsoever for anything outside of their elected duties.

      1. Most city councilmen don’t do it for the pay and retirement it is for the graft that comes along with the job. They get to steer contracts to their buddies and or family and they get their cut.

    3. All public sector unions are a cancer destroying the country with police and teacher's unions filled with the most bad actors, none of whom can ever be fired, all of whom have cushy salaries and pensions paid for by the taxpayers.

    4. Police abuse of ordinary citizens, especially non-whites, is a huge, huge problem here in the United States, and always has been, plus it's gotten much worse, due to the militarization of police throughout this country.

      I don't believe, however, that police unions should be eliminated, but they do need a serious overhaul and reforming, in the form of changing their ways and their attitudes so that abuse of ordinary civilian/citizens will not be tolerated.

      1. "Police abuse of ordinary citizens, especially non-whites, is a huge, huge problem here in the United States"

        Do you honestly believe that police abuse of ordinary citizens, especially disfavored minorities, isn't a huge problem OUTSIDE the United States?

        Not saying that major reforms aren't needed. Do away with 'qualified immunity', prosecute cops (and other government functionaries) who lie to get a warrant or a conviction, break the police unions. But let's not fall into the error I see all the time about the history of Slavery; the idea that the united States is uniquely awful. The cold facts about slavery are that most Black slaves were sold by blacks, were shipped somewhere other than the United States, and were treated worse. The cold facts about police abuse are that Police in the US are friggin' BOY SCOUTS compared to police almost anywhere else. We still need to rein them in; in most countries police are pretty explicitly hired political thugs, and we really don't want that trend going any further.

        1. People of all racial and ethnic groups here in the United States, including blacks themselves, were involved in the slave trade--that is true. However, the Arabs were the first to enslave the black Africans. When the Arabs had no more use for the black Africans as slaves, however, they killed them in the most brutal fashion. It wasn't until seven centuries later that the Anglos tapped into that enslavement of the black Africans.

          Back to the subject at hand, however: I stand by my opinions that the Police Unions need rather intense overhauls and reforms, rather than elimination altogether.

    5. That coward Sgt.Brian Miller that hid behind his car would have faced a firing squad under Washington or Grant.

    6. If you want to weed out bad cops, require officers to carry liability insurance and a performance bond. This does two things. First, if they engage in misconduct resulting in a legal settlement, their insurance will at least help defray the cost to the taxpayers, second, it will weed out bad cops entirely should they become uninsurable and/or unbondable.

      It’s completely reasonable to require these things. Mortgage loan originators in many states have to have E&O insurance and a bond, and they don’t even carry firearms as part of their job.

    7. Aren't you forgetting something? The function of a labor union is to protect the workers thereof from the excesses *of the boss*. Remember who the boss is for any govt. employee. If a particular union gets crooked, the redress for that is to convince the workers that they need to *de-certify* through the NLRB and get themselves a better union. If you don't like a particular union, get out there and organize already.

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      1. Let me guess. You're teaching English?

    9. In my only direct experience with a union, the fundamental belief of AFL-CIO seemed to be that literally anything that was in the interest of the employer must be detrimental to the workers, so protecting the workers meant opposing anything that might benefit the employer; there didn't seem to be any room for the idea that the company and workers could ever have any common interests.

      If that kind of oppositional philosophy were translated to any "public service" job, I can't imagine how that doesn't force the union to literally make themselves the enemy of the people, which is an interesting spot for a bunch of crooks pretending to be collectivists to find themselves in.

    10. Like any organization, it nothing to do with the union, has to do with the bad people who run them. No will protect violent, masachistic bullies who commit crimes while hiding behind a badge like the police union.

      What is collapsing the economy are the wall street captains of capitalism who have sent all US manufacturing and jobs to the communist in China. The US can't even produce a simple face mask. The greedy wall street vultures have sent off all manufacturing to China, including medicines. The US doesn't even make their own penicillin. US oligarchs buy the medicine super cheap from the Chinese and charge outrageous prices to US consumers. The only reason why the US economy is still afloat is the huge credit card debt being floated by bankers.

    11. I doubt we can prevent voluntary associations. A major, effective reform would be to prevent public sector unions from contributing to election campaigns. This should avoid the more unfair elements of union contracts.

    12. Get rid of unions? Sure, we've heard that before, and always under the same excuse. Look, there have always been good, bad, and indifferent unions, and the solution is to persuade the membership to clean up their unions themselves. No, this won't be easy; it never is. But if you try to get rid of unions completely, they'll only come back covertly; they always do, because the front-line workers always need protection from the excesses of the boss.

  2. I can get behind the headline. Especially if it's all public employee unions, and not just cops.

    Though it does at first blush seem to violate the Libertarian ideal that groups of people should be free to organize as they wish, including organizing for the purpose of collectively bargaining with an employer. Of course, in Libertopia, the employer wouldn't be forced to have to listen to what the nascent union had to say, nor be forced to tolerate their presence on the employer's property.

    1. I don't think that busting up government employee unions violates libertarian ideals. There's an important group of people that are not allowed to be involved in said negotiations despite their money being extracted by threat of violence in order to pay for whatever deal is reached. That group being literally everyone outside of the government. Seeing as their existence is already a violation of the NAP, I don't see them as legitimate.

      1. Government unions mean government employees acting as union reps sign agreements with other government employees to obligate the taxpayers to fork over money for decades without letting said taxpayers have any future input into the decision.

        1. Really? Ever hear of the Federal Reserve? It runs the entire US economy and answers to no one except the private banks who own it. The Federal reserve is neither federal nor does it have any reserve. What they do is print paper, call it money and demand payment for it including interest.

          Ever hear of the too big to jail too big to fail shysters on wall street who demanded a trillion of tax payer moneys less they let the economy fail? It was the biggest heist in US history. Are they in Jail? Hell no, they are still living in their multi million dollar homes thanks to the tax payer, some even skimmed more billions from the recovery money. And you are concerned about government employees retirement pensions?

          The 1% suckered all Americans to get rid of unions branding them evil, promising better economic times without unions. Instead, once they got rid of unions, they stole your health plan and then your retirement plan. And when they skinned you to the bones, got all they could get out of you, they sent your job off to the commies in China.

          You are one of those who the 1% love to bend over because they know you will take it with a smile.

      2. Like your thought.

        I would also be somewhat ok with public sect unions if governments only did the things that were outlined in their Constitutions. I venture that if we had smaller governments their would be less shenanigans in backroom deals.

        Then again the military has no union and they seem to do the best job at protecting their people while also following the rule of law (not perfect mind you and this doesn't include defense contracting).

        1. Even if you could reset to a minimalist government, the unions will always be one of the biggest forces for it to grow. They will always want more people so each person has to do less. The politicians and unions will together propose new bureaucracies to increase over all spending and union membership that results in more ability to lobby for more budget for their branch and more pay for each union member. All with money taken by force. It is an inevitable cycle, which is why the only real solution is to outlaw it.

        2. An apt comparison.

        3. The military has members (and ex-members) with seats on the board (e.g. Joint Chiefs of Staff, various federal elected politicians).

          1. Yes it does. That is one of the advantages of a system that hires most of the employees for only 4 to 6 years, and forces most of those that re-enlisted to retire in their 40's. It puts a lot of veterans out there seeking a second career; some go into politics, and many of those are quite good at this.

            Perhaps the best of the military are also far better than the best of the cops. Or perhaps it's that a high-ranking big-city police job becomes so comfortable that those that attain that rank will keep their job as long as possible, and only retire when too decrepit for any challenging work.

    2. The employees are always free to organize as they wish, including forming a union. But there is nothing in libertarian principles that says an employer should have to recognize, never mind bargain with, said union.

      1. If the employer - being you and me - gets a seat at the bargaining table, maybe we can at least talk. That will never be allowed.

        1. This. Everybody has a seat at the table except the person paying the tab.

      2. "...But there is nothing in libertarian principles that says an employer should have to recognize, never mind bargain with, said union."


    3. Though it does at first blush seem to violate the Libertarian ideal that groups of people should be free to organize as they wish,

      No one said the cops can't create and join a union-- but the local government doesn't have to recognize it.

      Chief: You paralyzed that guy, you're fired and I'm taking your pension.

      Union rep: I don't think so... this is going to enter arbitra....

      Chief: Fuck off with your arbitration, and if you don't get out of my office, I'll arrest you for trespassing.

      1. Shorter, pay all the dues you want to an organization that claims to represent you, but the government doesn't have to participate in your organization's rules, bylaws and negotiations. Fuck off.

        1. What's your plan to disincentivize politicians from empowering unions? You don't need to think very hard to figure out why they need each other.

          1. I don't have a plan, and yes, I agree, they absolutely need each other. I've pointed this out for years, that government and their unions are essentially one in the same, doing a pretend adversarial dance every few years in negotiation for higher pay.

            1. Yep. I've spent a lot of hours thinking about a way out of that quagmire and I've decided that I'm not going to be the person that's smart enough to solve it. At the end of the day it's yet another "who watches the watchmen" problem. They make the rules and they're not about to make rules to punish themselves. I would love to hear a solution if anyone has thought of it.

              1. I have a thought. All government/union labor contracts must be approved by a referendum.

                1. And the referndum needs a 2/3rds majority to approve the contract.

    4. Being a condition of employment that you shall not join a union is not against libertarian ideals, especially for employees of the state as long as the state funds itself the way it does.

      1. Public employees should never have unions. Even FDR was against that.

    5. I can’t think of a legitimate reason for government employee unions, it’s not like you can fire them even without one. I remember a TSA who was responsible for shutting down an airport because he was talking on his cell phone and someone slipped by him through the exit. They estimated the delays cost over a quarter million and he was not fired, this all before they had a union. I say get rid of all of them starting with the teacher unions and the police unions. And if they won’t let us get rid of them then all contracts should have to be voted on by the tax payers.

    6. In Libertopia people would all be living on 3rd world wages due to open borders. It is stupid.

      1. Yes, that analysis is stupid. Do you think your wages are depressed because Alabama has open borders with New York?

        1. Alabama has similar labor standards as New York. You want the US to compete with countries that determine which use the military to fire on strikers and break up unions.

          And even supposing an ideal world where all of that is undone and every country in the world is Libertopian, you're talking about an extremely unbalanced global situation where everyone would compete downwards in order for everything to equal out, before things start to go up again.

          1. Those are good points.

    7. Of course, in Libertopia, the employer wouldn’t be forced to have to listen to what the nascent union had to say, nor be forced to tolerate their presence on the employer’s property.

      Which, of course, precludes the existence of Unions so you're basically right. People could form a Union, and would be promptly fired.

      Which, notably, is pretty much where we stand today in most economic sectors.

      Or, at least, that's apparently the case since Amazon pretty clearly fired a few people for trying to Unionize their shit no matter what fig leaf they threw out to rationalize it.

      And, for the record, I have no problem with that.

      1. That's pretty much what civilian bosses did, or tried to do, in the early days of the labor movement. It didn't work then, and it won't work now.

        Besides, if all the cops went on strike, what would the govt. do for scabs? Call out the militia? A few week of that, and the politicians might consider that the cure is worse than the disease.

        --Leslie < Fish

        1. NYC cops objected to job changes by working slow. Crime decreased.

  3. Cops don’t deserve due process?

    1. Due process is for citizens, not employees. But cops have not understood that for years...

    2. The vast majority of people in the US work "At Will" we can be fired at any time without cause.

      The idea that cops (or any other government employees) are due any process at all in employment matters such as discipline and termination is laughable.

      1. The vast majority of people in the US work “At Will” we can be fired at any time without cause.

        If it's good enough for the rest of us it should be good enough for the "Heroes in Blue" too.

        1. They aren't heroes. They are glorified janitors. Their job isn't to stop crimes in progress or save/protect people (courts all the way up to SCOTUS have repeatedly ruled they have no such duty), their job is to take out the trash after the party is over.

          1. It's fun to watch them scoop up roadkill.

    3. They don't get special due process which turns what would normally be criminal acts into employee-employer disputes, resolved through arbitration.

  4. Police unions, like teachers’ unions and unions in general, overwhelmingly support Democrats, so this isn’t too likely to happen.

    1. hahaha, no, cop unions do not go for democrats. They know who butters their bread, and it is the right wing police state cretins.


      1. Kind of strange that the Virginia Democrats legalized collective bargaining for cop unions over the objection of all Virginia Republicans this year, then.

        Cop unions can vote for Republicans and endorse them, but it has *never* stopped Democratic Party politicians for endorsing collective bargaining for police unions and police protections (like Maryland's incredibly excessive LEOBOR), and the only places where police unions can't collectively bargain are NC, SC, GA, and, for the rest of the year, VA.

        I suppose you're saying that Democrats are even worse cretins who don't even know that they should stop giving police unions everything they want.

        1. You point actually speaks to the larger problem. It doesn't matter what anyone says publicly, the unions are greasing the palms politicians from both parties and vise versa. Trying to pretend like this is an R or a D problem misses the point. Like most crony corporations that receive a lot of freebies, unions are smart enough to realize that you don't put all your eggs in one basket. You donate to both. Whether that money is distributed evenly is somewhat irrelevant. All unions need all politicians and all politicians need all unions.

          1. No, that is not the larger problem. The larger problem is that cops are popular with the voters. Voters don't pay deep attention to local and state politics, but they like cops and their unions.

            It is utterly mistaken to think that it is about contribution money. That is as wrong as thinking that gun control doesn't get passed because of NRA money instead of votes. It is almost always wrong to blame money in politics instead of views; look at what money got Jeb and Hillary against Trump.

            The experience of Ohio, where Republicans stripped union rights from cops only to see it restored by a public referendum, demonstrates it as well.

            As long as you and others remain ignorant about the cause and blame it on corruption instead of the need to persuade the voters, we will fail.

            1. I should clarify that I don't think it's solely about contribution money. There numerous ways that politicians and law enforcement can scratch each other's backs without money ever changing hands. I understand that money isn't the only currency people trade. Sometimes just agreeing to maintain the status quo and not pushing back on each other is enough to keep them both happy - choosing not to fight corruption on either side is a form of a bribe.

              You're also correct that the popularity with voters is a big issue as well. I don't see it as one problem that needs to be solved. The reason these things almost never get fixed is because they're multifaceted and too many things need to line up at once. All the while, most of the incentives go the other way.

        2. My highly public employee union-friendly state also has a Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights that grants them privileges in criminal matters far in excess of those afforded the general citizenry. The problem isn't just the unions. State legislatures are often as much, if not more, of a problem.

          1. State legislatures grant the unions power. The entire existence of police (and other state and local employee) collective bargaining is the same sort of legislative grant as the LEOBORs, which are indeed terrible. They stem from the same thing, and it is the legislature's responsibility to abolish it.

      2. More likely they go for whoever is promising the most goodies.

      3. Trump isn't talking about abolishing police unions, and he is otherwise more supportive of police than the Democrats right now. That's why they are endorsing him. They wouldn't be endorsing a Republican who seriously wants to abolish police unions.

        At the local level, police and police unions are in bed with whoever gives them the most amount of money and power, and that's usually the Democrats.

      4. WHEW! What are you smoking,Liber?

      5. I think that has more to do with Trump not being a senile idiot, like Biden. As opposed to police unions being i. The bag for republicans.

        Seriously Pedo Jeffy, stick to your open borders sophistry, and your advocacy for your fellow NAMBLA members from south of the border.

    2. Indeed. In Virginia, where all public employee unions have not been allowed to collectively bargain for decades (but there is a police officer bill of rights), the Virginia Democratic Party, after taking the General Assembly, passed a law to let them all collectively bargain. No restrictions on police, not even on discipline. ("Local option" for municipalities to bargain or not, that's the concession that the more moderate State Senate Dems got.) It goes into effect next year.

      No Republicans voted for it. The Democrats could have legalized all collective bargaining except for cops just as easily. They did not. Adding cops did not get any Republican votes; it was something that the Democrats wanted.

      Republicans removing collectively bargaining from only cops doesn't get Democratic Party votes. Adding cops into to a bill that removes collective bargaining from other public servants doesn't get any Democratic Party votes.

      As of several months ago, there thus was absolutely no room for a bipartisan compromise here. The only party which is against police unions is the Republican Party, at least its more conservative strains, especially in the South. (No police collective bargaining in NC, SC, or GA still, and VA for the rest of the year.) The more moderate the Republican Party, the more they like police unions.

      That is not the structure of something that right now has a libertarian bipartisan compromise written on it. Maybe Democrats will change, I guess.

  5. Which big city mayor is going to tackle police unions? You think they'll put it in their platform when seeking office? The only Party that has the guts is the Libertarian Party, but the LP is ignored.
    As long as minorities keep voting lockstep for the Democrat party, then nothing will change even in cities where the minorities are the majority of the voters.

    1. Which big city mayor is going to tackle police unions? You think they’ll put it in their platform when seeking office?

      None, which is why they desperately want to make this about race. Every blue city mayor, press and city government at large will literally look at each other across the table, nod vigorously and admit their institutions are racist. Think about it... and entire political class that's desperately trying to convince you HOW racist they are while at the same time claiming they're uniquely equipped to fix the problem.

      1. ^ This.

        Many of the subgroups within the democratic party’s diverse but fragile coalition truly despise each other, with urban blacks and the big city police unions ruling over them being a perfect example. The party simply can’t afford to risk alienating either group by openly picking one side over the other.

        That’s why this problem hasn’t been solved in 50 years and still won’t be solved in another 150 years.

      2. I informed a candidate for Mayor that we don't need 1/2 our Fire-Sleepers and getting rid of them would balance the budget-he never mentioned a word of it,though he knew it was true.

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    2. Read the article. Camden did.

      The interesting (and unanswered) question is how they did it when so many others of both parties have failed.

      1. Like an alcoholic, they had to reach rock bottom first.

    3. The LP talks a lot; it hasn't accomplished anything.

      The fact that LP members actually seriously considered a nincompoop like Amash is ample evidence of that.

      1. Agreed, especially given the vast number of Libertarian elected officials.

  6. Wow Sudergirl gets one right, for maybe the first time ever. Strange times indeed.

    1. He stole it from the comments of the past few days...

      But maybe Reason is showing some signs of being teachable.
      Long, long, loooooooooong way to go

    2. Suderman is engaging in empty posturing; he doesn't know how to but police unions. It's the usual drivel from Reason authors.

  7. The same dynamics apply to EVERY public employee union. Disband them all.

    1. That would be nice, but the police are a unique institution in government in that they have a mandate and a right to engage violently with the public.

      The Metro Bus driver can't beat up his passengers and have the union... ok... bad example... the trash collector can't beat up homeowners who don't separate their garbage and have the union get them off...

      I probably should have started with some better examples.

      1. Teachers can't just molest their students and get away with i.. oh . shit.

    2. All government employees should be governed by their legislators.

  8. Every officer should be required to have a cam. Any arrest made without cam footage should be dismissed without prosecution. Any time an interaction with an officer occurs without cam footage, the citizen's word is law and the cop's word is inadmissible.

    Cops should not be armed. If firearms are necessary, (for example to interrupt an armed bank robbery*) they can send out the armed cops similar to how firefighters wait to be called on as needed.

    That's a start.

    *the actual number of cases where armed police interrupted a violent crime successfully as a ratio of all other police/citizen interactions is infinitesimally small.

    1. OK, so I can violate your privacy by making a false charge of something going on in your house and the cop will video the inside of your house.

      1. Ya, I had considered body cams could be used to sidestep concerns over a surveillance state. Hire low level flunkies as an auxiliary to the police and have them walk around recording everything and everyone.

        As is there are millions of cell phones at the ready to record police misconduct that makes me wonder if body cam advocates have thought things through. At this point, much like the calls to dismantle police unions, it is mouthing platitudes without considering the implications.

      2. Well that goes to the problem of rubber-stamped warrants by judges, also a big problem widely acknowledged in these pages.

    2. "chipper you have flipper-ed.

  9. Busting police unions would be a good start so long as teacher's unions are next on the chopping block, and then the rest of the public sector unions. There's a reason why even the patron saint of modern progressives, FDR, was against public sector unions.

    1. +1000000

    2. FDR, architect of the New Deal, did not find it logical for public sector collective bargaining to exist because legislatures set salaries and such by fiat; in theory there's no one to bargain with. That turned out not to be so true, and at any rate, of course, FDR was strongly in favor of the concept of unionization, which has been all but obliterated in the private sector, to no good effect unless you're a kleptocrat, by the same people who are trying to extinguish the last embers of the New Deal by going after the only unions that exist anymore. This is not because of something FDR said once, but because they are market fundamentalists with an ideological agenda that has proved a failure many times over.

      1. needs MOAR comrades..

      2. So odd that the greatest inequality and the greatest racism is always occurring in deep blue cities in deep blue states.

        Why is that, Tony? Just needs moar leeches?

      3. “Kleptocrat”.

        Haha. Whiny loser.

  10. All public sector unions should be abolished; government service is not compatible with unionization or collective bargaining.

    1. Want your government to be run by a bunch of criminal 3rd world imports? Because that is how you get that. They will be handing your sensitive information.

      1. Yeah, abolishing public sector unions leads directly to that. You are beclowning yourself with your defense of public sector unions. Given that I haven't seen much of you around here, I'm going to venture a wild guess that you are a union toady.

      2. It already is.

      3. Experience says otherwise. Several European nations do not permit public sector trade unions and achieve far better results, far less corruption, and far more efficiency than the US public sector.

      4. I see that the folks around here have forgotten a key Reason phrase. I'll help.

        Fuck off, slaver.

      5. NC, SC, GA, and VA have state and local government officials that are no worse on those lines than elsewhere in the country.

  11. Seems to me that all the cities with major problems are cities where 100% of the city council members are progressives--and have been since the 1960s.

    When a city council member's reelection only depends on whether they're endorsed by the Democratic Party, their votes are driven by the interests of the people who are running that party--rather than the voters. If the voters won't vote for the opposing party, there isn't any reform of the police or the police union that can make a difference. Under a single party system, even if there weren't a police union, the city council would still act as if they were a union by protecting them from accountability.

    We live in a democratic society, and it is predicated on the assumption that the voters will vote for the opposition when the incumbent sells their interests down the river. If the voters won't do that, no matter how badly they're abused, there isn't much a democratic society can do to stop people from voting for the bad actors. You need to take the message to the people.

    And the message needs to be, "vote Republican".

    The Democratic Party in Minneapolis isn't about to endorse a primary candidate who's in favor of stripping the contract of its police union contract of the clauses that protect the police from accountability--because winning the nomination requires the endorsement of the police. They need police reformers to run for office, they need to run as Republicans, and they need the voters to vote for them. There are other reforms that might help for a while, but over the long term, you won't see any substantive change so long as there is a single party running the city government.

    1. Shhh, you're not supposed to look behind the curtain! Goddammit, stop digging to root cause! This one little trick will solve all of your problems--even in bed!

      1. 50% of voters are now in favor (30% of republicans) of keeping the printing press bailouts going. Make all states, and every one in them whole again, rinse, repeat. I think that a few trillion here, a few trillion there, for virusmania and now destruction and rebuilding of blue cities is unsustainable and a sprint to serfdom...but that's just me.

        1. Tug your forelock when you address me.

  12. From someone who doesn't often agree with you, Suderman, good job.

    1. It would have been a good job if he had actually come up with a practical plan for getting rid of public sector unions. What Suderman actually provided us with is meaningless platitudes.

  13. It isn't just police unions that protect corrupt or incompetent employees; it's all unions.

    1. That's a Union function,agreed,but Public ones already have their legislators.

  14. Reform QI and prohibit public sector unions and we're 95% done.

    But it won't happen, which is why the inner cities are toast.

  15. hired goons on line 2 Pete ...

  16. Police unions are the worst example, because their members already have clubs and guns with which they abuse citizens; but all government employee unions are naught but conspiracies against citizens, conspiracies which those citizens are force to fund by those aforementioned clubs and guns.

  17. Finally. A Reason piece that promotes a real world solution. What a nice change from the out of touch with reality, academic, ideological glue and navel gazing that keeps libetarians from obtaining political power.

    Great Post Suderman!

  18. While I may like the outcome of that, it sure seems like it violates free association. Then again, this is Reason we're talking about. Principles are for the little people. Do what feels good, man.

    1. Forcing government to recognize and bargain with police unions also violates free association. And what do you know, that's what the vast majority of people here believe.

      1. Government isn't forced at all. If the government employees want to collectively bargain and maintain a corrupt leadership in the process, well that's their choice. If you want to claim it's related to NLRB, well then you are arguing that ALL unions should be busted. I get that you don't like the outcome. And again, I get that Pete doesn't have a libertarian cell in his body so he's OK with a shameless lack of principles. That doesn't mean you have to be Pete.

        If you want to argue that duly passed laws require the government to recognize these unions, again that doesn't impair their free association either. The government passwd those laws legally and the people keep voting them in. You may have a leg to stand on if you want to claim that contracts preventing the firing of public employees, especially in Right To Work states, is an illegal binding on future legislatures/executives. But that would be resolved by limiting the contracts to the shortest relevant period, e.g. 2 years between changes in government.

        Now if you want to talk about people forced INTO public unions, well that's no longer a problem thanks to Gorsuch and by extension Trump.

        But again, don't be like Pete.

        1. "Government isn’t forced at all. If the government employees want to collectively bargain and maintain a corrupt leadership in the process, well that’s their choice. "

          Government is forced. States pass laws that for local governments to collectively bargain with the unions. That's why NC, SC, GA, and, until the new progressive Democrats got the General Assembly, VA don't have collective bargaining with police. It is absolutely the choice of the legislature to collectively bargain, and it's disgusting.

  19. If the non-public-sector working class were able to unionize, there wouldn't be so many desperate people the cops could terrorize.

    1. Amazing someone can be as deluded and confused as tony.

      Private sector unions absolutely have the upper hand. The deck is totally stacked against the employers with the likes of the NLRB and other laws and acts in place. And yet private sector union membership has declined. I wonder why that is.

      1. "Amazing someone can be as deluded and confused as tony..."

        A result of long years of practice ay being a fucking lefty ignoramus.

      2. With so many labor laws already, and wages being what they are, there isn’t that much for a union to offer for the money they charge. After all, a union is nothing more than a labor corporation.

        What should happen is that there should be competition a,ongst private sector unions. Organizations like the Teamsters should have competition in the form of new startup unions co letting with them for members.

  20. What's true of police unions is, it seems to me, true of all unions. The best workers do not need and the average workers rarely need union intercession - they would be valued employees under any circumstances. It's the worst of the lot who need the union to go to bat for them, often many times. Job performance of a member is irrelevant; theoretically they are brothers (and sisters) of equal stature.

  21. Rarely do I agree with Mr. Suderman. I think someone injected him with some kind of serum that activates logical thinking.

    Let's hope it was the right dosage...

  22. Right now, I'd settle for doing away with contract clauses that prevent the disclosure of police misconduct, defined benefit retirement, and double-dipping. The rest can come later.

    If FDR opposed public sector unions, was he wrong?

    1. Now THAT seems like it violates FOIA laws. The police are acting agents of the government. You can hide that from public view the way a private agreement does.

  23. The same thing can certainly be said of teachers unions. Not only do teachers' unions defend bad teaching they also defend bad teachers. They refuse to let schools terminate teachers who have beed accused of child abuse, child molestations etc. If police unions had the same power and went as far as teachers unions, Chauvin wouldn't be in jail, he would be in a "rubber room" and still collecting a paycheck.

  24. I've been saying this for 20 years now, but reading it from the pen of one of Reason's writers has me reflexively opposing it. Public sector unions are cancer.

    But don't put all the onus on the horrible unions. It's the cities that agree to contracts that guarantee police may act with impunity. 75% (yes, I made that number up, but the true number is probably much higher) of the mayors of US cities are corrupt and the cops have enough dirt on them to keep them in line.

  25. With liberaltarians embedded at Reason magazine, do the defenders of individual rights need more enemies?

    Not a single article in the magazine about freedom advocates defending their family and property against marauding "protestors".

    1. Dude, it's peaceful arson and looting. They're hurting. Oh, and BUT TRUMP!

  26. ...and while you're at it, get rid of the teachers unions
    For that matter, get rid of public education.
    Let the parents be responsible for their kids' education and paying for it.

  27. This discussion is better than most in that different people see different aspects to the problem. Certainly, people should be able to form groups to protect their interests. Won't those interests naturally be disadvantageous to other groups. Government unions are a problem because the other side of the negotiating table has little skin in the game; they spend other people's rights and resources. However, who should the police work for and who should be the other side of the table in a democracy? If the police have no more protection than the average citizen, who would be a cop? They must use force or the threat of force to enforce the law; so every criminal could sue them and win. If we have cops that don't use any force against those breaking the laws, will society by without force? All members of Government have special protections; Comey, McGabe, Strzoke, and Page, all operated in their official capacity and seem immune to prosecution. Do you believe any members of the Government aristocracy would give up that protection? I have been against the cops since my childhood days in a "gang" but I would not want all the members of that group to be in charge. And they would if first force was allowed to rule. Life is like that.

  28. In my experience a corrupt union balances corrupt management.

    If managers exhibited ethics and morality (LOL) unions would disappear.

    1. @Rob Misek: The hell they would! Only when management's organizations lose monopoly power do unions disappear. Government defines monoply power. That is where unions thrive today. Not so in the real world.

      1. Unions are historically formed when workers are mistreated by unscrupulous managers.

    2. A premise not supported by logic, or facts. Much like Rob’s contention that the Holocaust never happened.

      1. What would a self censoring bigot like you who refuses to review the evidence know about logic?

  29. Yes, Mr. Suderman, it sure is and has been for decades. Especially where police are involved. I've never understood why "public service" unions were permitted anywhere in this country. I must be missing something.

  30. Every government employee union is a conspiracy against the public.

  31. They no-knocked for people already in custody. Why wouldn't someone inside react naturally and defend themselves? Take your lumps, LPD. You fucked up bad and killed the wrong, and innocent, person. Fuck off, LPD.

  32. How one feels about cops and their routine abuse of power is the best way to tell a conservative from an authoritarian.

  33. https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions#contracts

    From Campaign Zero. They are at least trying to make specific demands.

  34. Jane Byrne and Reagan also fired the bastards. But the idea of letting an armed monopoly also organize a second cartel layer to the detriment of its disarmed victims is clearly wrong--so say the outcomes.

  35. No employer directly funded by taxes should be allowed to recognize any union of, among, or for, any of their employees, nor provide the dues-check-off service that they are currently required to provide, to any union.

  36. *changes the oil in the wood chipper*

  37. My twin brother served 30 years as a U.S. Air Force Security Forces commander. He retired as a colonel. In that capacity he worked with civilian police both here and in Europe. On numerous occasions he commented that fully one-third of all police officers had no business being in any position of authority, let alone being armed.

    1. That isn’t shocking.

  38. Add me to the chorus calling for eliminating all unions, or at the very least, all public unions.

    May LBJ roast in Hell!

    1. "May LBJ roast in Hell!"


      I'd add WW and FDR, if I may.

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  40. Busting police, indeed all government employees unions is a needed step; but we face much more fundamental questions about the role and scope of government and its enforcers:

    "One of the paradoxes of modern policing is that the officials best equipped to violate an American’s rights also receive the most legal protections from scrutiny and accountability when it happens.

    The Police Were a Mistake
    Law enforcement agencies have become the standing armies that the Founders feared."


  41. Exactly. It ain't racist redneck cops and conservative confederates in these true blue big cities and states where the police brutality problems are. The problems stem from police unions stopping bad cops from being fired early and replaced with guys who can deescalate situations unless more force is truly needed. And the police unions are strongest in the blue states where public employee unions help to elect the politicians.

    The obvious fix? Ban unions from donating to politicians. (If corporations ain't people, unions ain't people.) Better yet, only allow net taxpayers to vote. If you're on the government dole (welfare or social security or government employment), you shouldn't get to decide how the taxpayers' money is spent.

    1. Didn't realize people still believed in a poll tax in 2020. I guess no one who isnt as smart as you believe you are deserves to vote. Unless of course they inherited money and dont have to worry about money.

  42. The only real issue that I take with this is that you have singled out the police and the police and fire are 2 of the public groups i believe should unionize. Look at the incompetence of some of these mayors and governors. They ask police to police but not really to police and if public pressure over stop and frisk or strong armed tactics (which actually work) creep up then blame the police so they can get re-elected. Is it any wonder Police Commissioners change more often than Mayors? Who is defending their rights?

    Why do teachers need a union? They do more harm to children than police in the community spewing liberal ideas that this country is racist and evil. God forbid a kid thinks for themselves and they are questioned by the teacher or administration. Yet if a teacher with tenure abuses a kid they are put on "administrative leave." These unions collect dues (all of which go to the democrats) and teachers are protected from being fired keeping the public school systems in this country a laughingstock of the world.

    How about transit unions? These employees make a better than middle class living for driving buses, collecting tickets on a train. Yet anytime they are not happy they have sickouts, walkouts, slow drive the equipment and why? Because they have a union that fights for those rights. Not for nothing but transit in major cities is a way of employing those from inner cities, many of them minority and the unions fight to get paid the most for working the least. And you wonder why the systems never get better, only worse.

    The list goes on and on with unions in general. Police and fire put their lives on the line everyday as we have seen through these riots. If a few bad apples need representation so be it. These cops are tried in the court of public opinion long before a case gets to court and are always judged guilty by a liberal press. Most of the time they are wrong and most of the time never get an apology. So having unions for these guys is fine with me. Get rid of the rest.

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  44. Mutatis mutandis, this article could be about teachers' unions.

    1. Yes!

  45. That headline. So true yet so devoid of meaning.

  46. I suspect that most people saying "ban public sector unions" are in favor of banning private-sector unions as well. The existence of public-sector unions is not the problem. And, in fact, since the Janus decision, public-sector unions have constitutional protection than they didn't have before, because SCOTUS ruled, in essence, that, even when advocating for more money, they are engaged in protected 1st amendment activity - which is why non-members cannot be compelled to pay anything to a public-sector union that represents them.

    Nonetheless, states retain authority to choose not to bargain with public-sector unions or limit the subjects over which they may bargain (which was an important component of Scott Walker's Act 10 in Wisconsin). It seems that simply limiting the ability of police unions to bargain over discipline would largely solve the problem of not being able to fire bad cops.

    It's also worth noting that Act 10 exempted police and fire unions. Police unions have always been the one public-sector union that the Right has supported.

    1. I suspect that most people saying “ban public sector unions” are in favor of banning private-sector unions as well.

      You are wrong. People don't want to ban private sector unions. But what conservatives and libertarians want to do is ban government laws that force people to participate in private sector unions against their will.

      The existence of public-sector unions is not the problem. Nonetheless, states retain authority to choose not to bargain with public-sector unions or limit the subjects over which they may bargain

      The primary problem is that public sector unions are political organizations and action committees. Political activities of government employees need to be scrutinized and limited to some degree.

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  48. And teacher unions support all these teachers who are sexual predators...time to end all public sector unions We can't afford them anymore anyway.

    You have this special case of Police and Fireman. Fireman is an interesting one to me because I've never lived anywhere where I had anything but a volunteer fire dept and it worked fine. Except for say a very large dense city there is no need for a full time fire department. As for police..why not just go with a private security force? That and a very well armed citizenry should be enough.

  49. The U.S. police are better than come Countries, worse than others. I would put the vast majority of Western European Countries ahead of the U.S., with many Latin American ones being worse.

    I am a bit surprised about the strong reaction to the Floyd George case. The Breona Taylor incident was far, far worse in my estimation. They killed this woman, a young, dedicated first responder, at her residence. One lawyer said he had never seen a place so riddled with bullets. All over some stupid drugs?

  50. No libertarian should accept reform of the initiation of violence.
    Reform of coercion is still coercion.
    No police would reduce total loss by theft overnight. More property is lost to the police by Civil Asset Forfeiture than by burglary.
    Common law or any law chosen by mutual agreement between parties allows for reason, rights, order. Not so now, with the coercive politics worldwide.
    We can have individual sovereignty or a sovereign elite ruling over us, but not both. They are mutually exclusive. You may choose to be ruled, i.e., let others choose for you, run your life, or you can govern yourself.

  51. After re-reading this article I reached the conclusion that it's the one of the more poorly reasoned articles I've ever read on Reason. I say that even though I agree that police unions are a cancer.

    First off, there was never a contract provision in any police contract ever written that wasn't agreed to by both sides. The provisions mentioned in the article are most definitely awful, but the cities never had to agree with them. Don't blame police unions for the cowardice and cynicism of city officials.

    Secondly, I agree that message of police unions is that cops can do wrong, even when videotaped doing wrong, convicted of doing wrong, and fired for doing wrong. But ultimately that is just free speech in action, something that libertarians used to support. You don't like the message? Then go right ahead and speak against it. Demanding that police unions be dismantled for exercising their speech rights is the very apex of hypocrisy for this magazine.

    Unions are nothing more than an organization to support the members common interests. No city official in any city should ever negotiate directly with any union, police or otherwise, on any matter including salary. Let the labor market determine salaries and benefits. The fact that they do negotiate with unions is *their* choice and their mistake, not the unions. I see the gist of this article as "We can't have police unions because city officials are too stupid to do the right thing".

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  53. Collective bargaining rights came about in the late 50's in some states, the Federal Government in 1962 (JFK), and in some cases, has been found by the State courts to be constitutionally protected. While I am not a fan of public unions, Police Unions are not going anywhere.

    But unions are only one of two groups in the room when negotiating. The problem is the group representing the people who elected them, agree to these contracts so they can get their vote and election dollars.

    Since most of the unions cannot be dissolved, the legal question is, can their bargaining rights be legally limited which in turn will reduce their power.

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